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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fund commercial projects with the EB-5 Program

By EB5 Investors

China’s emergence in the last decade as an economic power has created a class of wealthy entrepreneurs, and the EB-5 program has given them the opportunity to invest their capital in exchange for gain green cards for themselves and their dependents in the United States.

Through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, several Chinese investors have poured 30 million dollars into the charter school system in Florida and are planning to invest more. According to Ilona Vega Jaramillo, director of international business development for Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development division, this group of investors is looking to bring an additional 90 million dollars into the system next year.

EB-5 program administration

The EB-5 program is directed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USICS”) and allows investors to be eligible for visas under the fifth employment-based visa category. Created by Congress and enacted in 1992, with the purpose of stimulating the economy through foreign investment and job production, the program requires an investment of at least 1 million dollars ($500,000 if investing in a “targeted employment area”) and the creation of at least 10 jobs. In return for their investment, the foreign investor will gain legal residency in the U.S. for themselves and their dependants if they meet all of the program’s requirements.

EB-5 program definition of commercial enterprise

One of the requirements is that the money be invested into a commercial enterprise. While schools are not traditionally commercial in nature, the EB-5 program is flexible in its determination of what constitutes a commercial enterprise. In the case of the charter schools, they create jobs for teachers, custodians, bus drivers, administrators, and also indirectly create jobs for local businesses that will see an influx of new customers as a result of the schools’ establishment.

Another group of 12 Chinese investors has taken advantage of the “Regional Center” program and each placed their $500,000 ($6 million dollars total) into an aquaculture project in Fellsmere, FL. A regional center is a business designation given to some investment vehicles by the USCIS that operate in commercial entities that promote economic expansion and job generation. The Regional Center is charged with the project’s administration and compliance with USCIS regulations.

The Fellsmere aquacultural project is a sustainable Pacific white shrimp farm. The farming process allows for the shrimp’s by product to be filtered by feeding it to oysters. The filtered product would then be used in a lined open pond where sea asparagus is grown, all without discharging the waste into the environment. The shrimp and oyster production takes place in an enclosed, insulated building, allowing for farming 365 days a year and results in 10 times the amount of product than from traditional farming processes.

Currently, the project has $10 million raised, but is in the process of qualifying an additional 32 investors through the EB-5 program so that construction can continue without interruption. They are slated to break ground in January.